Me of 2014, Here’s to You: A Year in Review

At the conclusion of every year, I like to make a mental list of things I’ve learned throughout the year. This year, I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve also written a lot. So instead of making a mental list, I decided to write what I’ve learned down. What I’ve learned turned into a list summarizing what I’ve written about, what I’ve talked about with friends, and what I’ve thought about late at night. It turned into a list echoing a letter, partially inspired by a wonderful friend I went to Guatemala with. Do with this list what you will, but I’ve discovered the importance of reflecting on how much a year can change you, on how much you grow over the course of twelve months. Without further adieu, what I’ve learned in 2014.

Dear Me of January 1, 2014,

In 2014, you will:

  • be challenged, step out of your comfort zone, learn so much, cry, laugh, heal, celebrate, and mourn.
  • experience the healing power of forgiveness without expecting an apology.
  • be pushed to the breaking point (again) with one of the most physically and mentally exhausting semesters. You will learn from this and follow it up with one of your easier semesters. Thank yourself for this.
  • receive an unexpected apology.
  • experience God in new ways: through the first sunny day after a long, dark winter; through the cuddles of a toddler on Friday mornings; through the strength you find to get out of bed in the morning.
  • deepen old relationships, discover new ones, and cut ties with toxic people.
  • celebrate milestones marking things you’ve overcome.
  • rediscover yourself, redefine yourself, learn to love yourself.
  • make it through another year. Sometimes you’ll fight an uphill battle; sometimes you’ll walk on solid ground.
  • be knocked down, knocked down, knocked down, but you’ll get back up over and over and over again.
  • stop writing your book after a long period of self-doubt, and then you’ll start writing again after revamping and reorganizing because you have so many stories churning inside that sometimes you can’t sleep at night because the words inside your head won’t stop screaming until you give them live. And you learned a long time ago about the power of words–how they should not be silenced.

In 2014, you will:

  • realize it’s ok to ask for help, to be vulnerable, to let people in. You should not be ashamed of your past.
  • learn more about the world, and in doing so, your views and beliefs will be challenged, but in the process you will become more open-minded. What you believe may not line up with what those around you believe. Embrace this. The world in not black and white; it’s a complex amalgamation of issues that cannot clearly be defined. Life is not a math equation, no matter how many people try to define it as such.
  • learn that you don’t agree with the way everyone lives their lives. That is ok. Some people don’t have the same beliefs as you. Don’t push yours on them. Love is more important.
  • learn to appreciate the little things.
  • have a hard time getting out of bed somedays, but you will anyway. Although it may not be until after you have an argument with yourself in which you way the pros and cons: it’s safer here, but you won’t get to see your friends. It’s warm and I’m tired, but you won’t get to learn. You will learn to have faith that the floor will hold your weight, and when you feel like the burdens of this world are too heavy for your legs, God will carry you through it.

In 2014, you will:

  • come face-to-face with the ignorance of people. You will be forced to validate your existence to people who make jokes about your past. Look them in the eyes as you ask them to explain how the joke is funny. Watch them squirm as their face turns red. Do not apologize for embarrassing them. Do not accept their apology for cracking that joke. How else will they learn? Somethings are not meant to be joked about.
  • learn that some professors wil make insensitive comments. Next time you hand in a journal about a depressing poem, compare the poem to your own life.
  • learn that some professors are the most caring people on the planet and give so much time to their students. They will stop you on the sidewalk because they know you are having a hard time. You will pour your heart out to them. Tell these professors how much they are appreciated. Don’t take them for granted.
  • encounter people who make you feel insignificant. Don’t speak softly. Assert yourself. Make your presence known. Do not apologize for existing.
  • call people out on their behavior.
  • realize opinions and beliefs you previously held were wrong. That’s ok, because now you know better. You have matured and learned.
  • learn that people are the worst and the best. You will be horrified at the way people treat others, but in the midst of it all, you will realize the good of humanity: out of darkness comes light. Embrace the good. Learn from the bad.

In 2014, you will want to change the world. You will find strength you didn’t know you had. You will start fighting. You will continue fighting.

For 2015, promise yourself you won’t stop. Life is too beautiful to give up.

In 2015, you will:

  • graduate from college.
  • find a job.
  • learn to love yourself more.
  • ?

It’s a blank book, a blank slate. Embrace it. You’ve come so far in 2014, and 2015 holds so much more promise despite the unknown.

“How do you prepare yourself for another 365 days of uncertainty?”

  • pray
  • hope
  • trust.

Sincerely,

The You of December 31, 2014.

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Just Keep Swimming

Disclaimer: this post is a post I’ve been mulling over for a few weeks now. I’ve been trying to figure out the way to treat this subject with the sensitivity it deserves, because yes, I can be open and candid about it, but for some people it’s just not easy. The wounds are too fresh. I’m showing you my cards here. I’m wiping off my poker face. I’m putting it all on the table. This post, like so many others, is about suicide. And I need, no, I want, you guys to know that before you keep reading. Because I understand that some of your wounds are fresh, but I also know that sometimes talking about can speed up the healing process. I also know that sometimes talking about it can make it worse. So, if the latter is the case, stop reading. I don’t want to make your burden heavier than it already is. Make yourself a cup of tea and go to your happy place. If the former is the case, make yourself a cup of tea and read this post. Either way, I want you all to know that you are loved, and there are people out there who understand your pain, who will be willing to help carry your burden.

 

It’s been 4 years, 1 month, and 1 day since I attempted suicide. I survived. Yet, so many others do not.

I’m not going to give you statistics, because if you want to know, you can look up the numbers on your own. I’m not going to give you statistics, because this isn’t speech class where I need numbers to convince my audience to agree with me. It’s not that I don’t have facts, because I do.

Fact: Suicide is a moment.

Fact: Depression is a race.

Fact: Suicide is a moment. A moment when someone decides they are tired of running.

Fact: Depression is a race, and if you stop running for even a second, it catches you.

Fact: Suicide is a moment. A moment when someone decides they are tired of running. In that moment, it doesn’t matter that there are people who love them.

Fact: Depression is a race, and if you stop running for even a second, it catches you. If you stop and rest, it begins to grow on you.

Fact: Suicide is a moment. A moment when someone decides they are tired of running. In that moment, it doesn’t matter that there are people who love them. Because all of sudden, life hits them in the chest, and they realize this sadness will never go away.

Fact: Depression is a race, and if you stop running for even a second, it catches you. If you stop and rest, it begins to grow on you. It’s like a vine that blocks out the sun, a python strangling the joy out of you, and rust that corrodes the bones.

Fact: Suicide is a moment. A moment when someone decides they are tired of running. In that moment, it doesn’t matter that there are people who love them. Because all of a sudden, life hits them in the chest, and they realize this sadness will never go away. And they dare themselves to do it.

Fact: Depression is a race, and if you stop running for even a second, it catches you. If you stop and rest, it begins to grow on you. It’s like a vine that blocks out the sun, a python strangling the joy out of you, and rust that corrodes the bones. And it’s so easy it sit there and let it consume you, because it whispers to you of an eternal sleep.

Fact: Life is made up of moments.

Fact: Life is a race.

When I am up high, I get scared. Because I’m telling myself, I could really do this. I could. But then, when I think these thoughts, I think of how great it would be to fall in love, how great it would be to travel the world. And I return back to normal. But I hold on to the moment and the thought of what it would be like to travel through the air. And I know I’ll probably never take myself up on the dare again, but the memory gives me a comfort that the day is mine to choose. Because the memory of how I felt in that moment when I swallowed those pills is tucked away in my brain like a sour candy stored in my cheek. I don’t like sour candy.

Some people do.

Some people take themselves up on the dare, because they don’t see how life can get any better. And I can understand why, because sometimes I’m tired of running, which is usually 2.5 minutes after I begin, because I have asthma.

Some people take themselves up on the dare, and they leave their families behind. And their families are left picking up the pieces and are trying to make them fit. But like a jigsaw puzzle with a missing piece, it will never be the same.

And we can’t save everybody, but we should certainly try.

Because I know first-hand how devastating a suicide can be. My mother lost a cousin to it, and my dad did too. And they almost lost a daughter.

And in the last year, my high school has lost two graduates to it, and now the families and friends are wondering why.

I don’t know the reason for other people, but I know mine.

And I think society is talking about it more, which is good, but I think people need to better understand that this is a disease. People like me can’t just snap out of it. Because we can recover for a while, but it will inevitably return, so we live our lives in the moment. The future is scary, and it’s not always guaranteed.

Because it’s all too easy to drown in an ocean of tears, and sometimes we forget we can float in salt water.

 

 

Un-eligible Princess

If you could use your imagination for a second and imagine me standing in front of you, I’m terrified and shaking and trembling but I’m reading this with a smile on my face. Because I’m terrified of speaking in large groups, but when I’m reading my words from the page, I’m the only one in the room.

Right now, it’s one in the morning, or 7 at night, or pick a time any time. And I’ve written many things already tonight. And the number of words I’ve written in my life is probably greater than the number I’ve spoken. And that’s ok. Because with every beat of my heart, my blood carries my words throughout my body, reaching my brain and my fingers until I itch for a pen.

But there was a time when I would have reached for the razor instead. I would have watched as my blood trickled from my skin and the tears from my eye flood carried the words I didn’t know how to say from this body of mine. Because I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve, but a part of it leaves when I sit down to write. Because my heart cries tears of pain and joy and desperation, and all this accumulation turns into inspiration late at night.

And I’m well-versed in the art of poetry (and also math, but Calculus 101 and 102 demanded my wrath). But poetry is not a mathematical equation, unless you’re Shakespeare with his sonnets, and his perfect 14 lines of iambic pentameter.

Because

Any

Sentence

Is

Poetry

If

You

Write

Like

This.

And if that’s poetry, I’m not a poet—try my way though. Because my prosetry may include rhyme and meter, because I grew up counting meter for music, so I’ve met her (be)fore. And anything is a metaphor if you try hard enough. I draw poetry from life around me and the pain inside me. Because every so often, I think ‘why me?’

And I believe my words are beautiful. Because they have the power to open minds, change minds, encourage minds, and maybe one day convince someone to be mine. Even dressed to the nines, I don’t feel fine, by which I mean beautiful.  Because what’s beautiful about scars? I mean Scar was the bad guy in Lion King, and I’m the Daughter of the King, so don’t my scars make me the “Next Un-eligible Princess?” And I try to hide mine, because I drew the line and connected the scars on my skin, and one day I picked up the pen instead.

Because writing makes me feel beautiful. And my writing is beauty filled, and people tell me they’re proud of me. And if my writing can help thee, then it shall be. Because I don’t want to hide these red razor lines on my abs and my thighs, so I transfer them to my writing, which is fine by me. My scars say “I have survived,” but these demons won’t go away, which is why writing is here to stay. Because this pain is enough to drive me insane, but my words are enough to keep them at bay.

Because not too long ago, I believed that beauty was directly proportional to weight, which made me hate society. Because when did it become ok to say things to ourselves we are too afraid to say to anyone else? And when did skeletons become goddesses teaching us to not need? Because what does thin mean to you? Sophistication, adoration, adulation, a vaccination against segregation? And if that’s beauty, I’ll stay ugly.

Because I’ve always been too big, too loud, too quiet, too excitable. But that’s ok, because my heart is too big to be contained in jeans too small for a stick. And although some days I hate everything about who, what, and how I am, it’s ok anyway. Because I have enough pain to write novels like Bronte. And they will be beautiful, because slowly and surely, I am learning to love myself. There are parts of me that shine like the stars. Because my eyes are full of wonder, and when I make a blunder: I still walk into the light.

So I can no longer believe that my value is tied into how much I weigh, because whoever said “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” clearly never tried Red Velvet anything. Besides, I have better things to worry about. I mean, I have a book to write, and lives to change, and people to hug, and stories to tell. And the last thing I want people to remember me for is my weight. I want to be remembered for doing something great.

But right now, in this moment, I’m 19. I’m here, and I’m so afraid. But my courage is roaring like the sun, because I’ve made it this far, and I know I’ll be ok. So when I get up in the morning, and my legs feel like they might buckle, I’ll have to trust that they are strong enough to keep me from falling. I am strong enough. Besides, if they’re not strong enough in that moment, life goes on. And I can try again tomorrow.

 

I Press On

When I tell people I’m a Bible Quizzer, they give me a strange look. I know they’re imagining me sitting in a room, taking a test on a book about a guy who’s been dead and alive again for 2,000 years, and they’re probably imagining me to be crazier than I already am. So when I have the audacity to tell them “Bible Quizzing is a sport,” they have to bite their tongue and hold themselves back to keep from screaming “off with her head.”

And I want to tell them:

Life is a sport. You can play for the good guy or the bad guy. And I chose the good. And while your sport has you running around in circles chasing a ball, my sport has me learning how to think about a question, synthesize an answer, and respond in 20 seconds, which is faster than most people can say the alphabet backwards. And while you’re learning how to increase your time off the starting blocks, I’m learning how to sit on a chair just right, because I can’t be too heavy or too light. Because when the correct time is nigh, I need to flinch, have the fastest reaction time in getting my Gluteus Maximus off a ridiculously tiny rectangular pad, all so my light can shine next to number 1, which is really code for “I can jump faster than you.”

It’s like Physical Effort, “My Legs Are Sore”, Jeopardy.

And I was probably most likely not even close to nowhere near the best Quizzer ever, but I can still find my way around scripture, because I know where to find God. And I’ve quoted the book of Help Me, Jesus so many times that it’s verses are tattooed on my lips because I once forgot the name of the one who saved me when I couldn’t save myself.

So I may be able to tell you where a passage of scripture is found, and maybe if you’re lucky, I can even complete the verse. But probably not.

Because we all can’t win the Alpha and Omega Trophy, but we all can win people for the Alpha and Omega. And isn’t that what this about anyway? It’s more than just memorizing the location of words on a page in the precise order they are presented in order to hopefully answer some questions about who, what, where, when, why, how much God loves us. Because I know the answer to that question. It’s about taking what you’ve learned, applying it to your life, and using it over the long haul. It’s about planting the seed and watching the garden grow, which is incredibly cliché, I know, but if the shoe fits, wear it.
Trust me, competition is fun (because I’m the girl who flips the Monopoly Board), But winning isn’t everything.

And there’s something beautiful in this brother and sisterhood, close knit family. Because I wanted to quit so many times since the day I forgot how to get out of bed, but I kept coming back for more. Because I have this thirst that cannot be quenched by any water from this earth.

There is something inspiring in the faces of victory and the faces of defeat. And I want to be a part of inspiration. There’s something inspiring in the encouragement given after wins, losses, good tries, good quizzes. Everybody needs encouragement sometimes. There’s something powerful in the way opponents during a quiz become best friends after hands are shaken. Because when our world is shaken, we all need someone to lean on.

So even though last year I upgraded my ticket from “Quizzer” to “Coach,” I want to tell you this: no matter how many times you are beaten by the same team/ person over and over again, never give up. One day, you will be triumphant (even if that means sitting back and waiting until they move on to bigger and better divisions). The same is true with life.

So don’t you dare tell me Bible Quizzing is not a sport because it’s trained me for what lies ahead. It’s formed me into the person I am today. It’s taught me life is pretty much impossible without a great group of friends, and I have the best. It’s taught me that even though big groups make me uncomfortable, I can be myself and people will still love me.

So when I forget how to get out of bed, when my lips forget how to form a prayer, when I want to pack my bags and leave, I remember the scripture I have stored in my heart, and I remember you.

Yes, I am a Bible Quizzer. But I’m also a fighter. I’m a warrior, and I’m a runner.

Because every day I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Perfect

Find somebody who’s perfect. NO. Don’t find somebody who’s perfect. Find somebody who’s so imperfect that the Spectrum of Acceptable Levels of Perfect doesn’t even apply.

The problem with being human is we try so hard to be perfect and fail so miserably we might as well be called “Adam and Eve,” because we ate the forbidden fruit and were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, which essentially means perfection because paradise is perfection, or as close as we are going to get. So, we are separated from the One who is Perfect because of our own iniquities, and are so afraid of failing (which coincidentally looks an awful lot like falling) we begin to shave off part of ourselves because we will never measure up to this line defined by perfection—because humans are born with the innate fear of falling.

And this changing who we are to fit the standards that Society defines brings us even farther from perfection. Because if I’m not perfect for society, how can I be perfect to me? And so we reach into our pockets to find any loose coins to throw in the Well of Change and transform who we are. Because if we lost paradise once, we can lose it again, and everybody knows that paradise is conforming to the rules of society so you do not stick out like a sore thumb, like a weed in a garden of roses.

But even roses have thorns. And you don’t know beauty until you’ve been broken, so don’t be afraid to fall and shatter. It’s the regrowth that makes you beautiful. So be a weed in a garden of flowers, because weeds choke out their enemies (ok. Bad metaphor. Because the 6th Commandment is do not kill. So do not choke out your enemies).

A better metaphor would probably be the regrowth of a forest after a devastating fire. Beauty comes from ashes. So do not be afraid to burn up every once in a while. Nobody’s perfect.

The problem with being human is we are so focused on being perfect that we forget about the one who is perfection defined. We are not perfect, but we are made perfect by the washing of his blood, which is good enough for me. Because I’m busy trying to save my body from myself and I don’t have time to worry about being perfect. Because how am I supposed to be perfect when I can’t even get my hair to do what I want?

Somebody so perfect loved people so imperfect that we don’t have to be good enough for society. Because despite all our failures, we still have a place in Paradise.

Monsters: A poem within a poem

As Children we looked under our beds for monsters. Our monsters hid in closets. They lay in wait for the flick of the switch to conceal the room in total, utter, all-consuming darkness. Monsters that didn’t really exist, and that were really nothing more than shadows transformed into hideous beings by our overactive imaginations.

“Daddy! Daddy! There’s a monster!”

Somehow between the ages of naivety and experience, the monsters created by the imagination changed into monsters no imagination could create. Monsters hiding in the recesses of our soul until moments of weakness signals the beginning of feeding time—a feeding time that puts all the troops on high alert:

Watch out, there’s an invader. But the invader is only a darker version of ourselves threatening to destroy us. And the battlefield is our body: we are protecting our bodies from ourselves. Because the mind is a dangerous place, especially the mind of a tormented soul who doesn’t know how to deal with the pain.

And cries of “Daddy! Daddy! There’s a monster!” won’t save you this time.

The cries won’t save you from the battle raging on in your mind for control of your body. A battle that is best exemplified by a poem in the diary of a young girl who has just started fighting, a girl who has been so consumed by self-hate that she began cutting to stop the thought of ending her life.

An unnamed poem that reads:

Looking in the mirror, a tear stained face stares back at her.

She sees the hurt in her eyes.

Flashbacks of memories from the life shoe once lived control her mind;

She closes her eyes and the memories come flooding in.

Worthless. Worthless.

Ugly. Ugly.

Lying in her bed at night, she’s reached the breaking point.

Delirious from the tears, subconsciously her hands grab the scissors.

Slash.

The warm crimson blood trickles out of the newly made wound on her abdomen.

It stings like a slap in the face.

But it provides a temporary release for the pain, the anger.

Slash:

Another one.

This time on the wrist—

A cut that feels like it’s on fire.

She opens her eyes.

She looks in the mirror for a second time.

She dries her tears.

She covers her recently created marks of all-consuming self-hate.

She walks out the door to start her day.

That day’s battles will leave her with two more scars.

But the poem doesn’t have to end that way. Your story doesn’t have to end that way. The monsters don’t have to win. A simple asterisk with an alternate ending turns the poem to a happy one:

She looks in the mirror for a second time.

She dries her tears, turns around, and walks away;

She leaves the person she was behind.

She’s stronger now.

All that’s left are the scars and the memories of those long, sleepless nights.

You’re stronger now.

I’m stronger now.

We’re all stronger now.

 

 

What doesn’t kill you

…makes you stronger.

Kelly Clarkson once told me that little nugget of wisdom. Well, Kelly, I hope that’s true. Because Depression hasn’t killed me, yet. But, I sure as hell* hope that it’s made me stronger.

( *I don’t swear on principle, but sometimes when you’re writing, swear words used in moderation help make a point. )

In one of my more recent blog posts, “You’re Better Off Dead,” I also wrote about this topic. Apparently, I need to reiterate.

People who live with Depression are often misjudged to be weak, selfish attention-seekers. I have never in my life heard a statement that is more false than that one.

Allow me to paint you a picture:

Imagine that you are fighting by yourself in a war against an army that is 7 billion strong. The other army has all the weapons available to them; you, on the other hand, have only a plastic fork and a metal trash can lid to defend you. Clearly, you don’t stand much of a chance. But, you, being the innovative person that you are, use the fork to dig yourself a hole. You jump in the hole, and use the metal trashcan lid to cover the hole and protect yourself from the bombs and bullets that are raining down on you.

This is Depression. The bombs and bullets are life and everything it throws at you. The fork is the voice inside your head telling you to fight like hell to survive—a voice that can be silenced so easily. The metal trashcan lid is your own personal sanctuary, wherever or whatever it may be.

My personal sanctuary is my bed. On my good days, it takes me an hour to get out of bed after I wake up (and that’s only if I have someplace to be). I’d much rather curl up in my bed, hide under the blankets, and not face life. But I get out of bed. I face life. I fight with my plastic fork, and even when I am too weak to take one more step in that marathon called Life, I do anyway. Because even though it feels as though I am sometimes breathing through a straw, my lungs are still filled with air. And as long as my lungs are still filled with air, I refuse to be another teenager lost to Suicide.

Because I easily could have been another Suicide statistic.

But, I chose life.

I chose to fight. And even though I don’t go through every day undamaged, even though my Depression causes me to regret somethings I do, I live. I do not suffer from Depression; I am living with Depression.

One day, I will die. But it will because I lived.

Depression will not be the death of me.

Depression:  “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”